Posted by | May 1st, 2017


The world has a way of making you choose between one thing or another. High or low? In or out? Fashion or art? Even in binary code, on and off leaves little room for much else – but what lies in between? Such is the prevailing question for The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s latest Costume Institute 2017 exhibition, Rei Kawakubo / Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between, which examines how the Japanese designer’s archive rests comfortably between the spaces of specific dualities.

Shattering conventional thought in design since 1969, Kawakubo has disrupted the fashion system with her interstitial aesthetic and the resulting exhibition takes that concept further with about 140 pieces grouped into 9 categories; Absence/Presence, Design/Not Design, Fashion/AntiFashion, Model/Multiple, High/Low, Then/Now, Self/Other, Object/Subject, and Clothes/Not Clothes. One would think that the point of these titles is to categorize her collections but on the contrary, Kawakubo pushes to show that within these arbitrary pairings, true freedom is achieved. Costume Institute curator, Andrew Bolton, set out to pacify the designer’s qualms with the past and translate her torment with normalcy. “Physically, she finds it painful to look at garments she’s already made because she feels they’re not strong; they’re not new,” Bolton explains. Her affinity for shocking creations that people have negative reactions to is often welcomed, surprisingly. “I think when she creates garments that are understood, she feels as if she has done something wrong. Compared to when she creates something people are shocked by. She’s challenging you.” That challenge stands as Kawakubo’s battle cry and cements her historic status in the Costume Institute’s second focus on a living designer since the Yves Saint Laurent exhibition in 1983.

Photos by Betty Sze for
Text by Irene Ojo-Felix
Heads and wigs created and styled by Julien d’Ys (L’Atelier NYC)

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